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Sister of Ruth Perry says Ofsted has not apologised for ‘causing’ her death


By PA News

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The sister of Ruth Perry has described the response of Ofsted to a coroner’s conclusion that an inspection likely contributed to her death as “woefully inadequate”.

Julia Waters said the schools regulator had apologised “for the distress rather than causing my sister’s death”.

Mrs Perry took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Her family has demanded change to prevent other teachers from going through similarly “traumatic inspections”.

I wake from restless sleep absolutely panic stricken. 40 days are taking their toll on my skin and my nails, my stomach is wasting away.
Note written by Ruth Perry

Following the coroner’s conclusion, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman apologised to the family and friends of Mrs Perry.

She said Ofsted has made changes to reduce pressures felt by school leaders and “will do more” to address concerns raised by the coroner.

Mrs Spielman added that the watchdog was delaying next week’s inspections by a day and setting up a hotline for schools that have concerns.

But speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Waters said “pausing the inspections for a day to do some training is not enough”.

“I receive emails every day from teachers and headteachers and their relatives who’ve been through traumatic inspections. Things absolutely have to change,” she added.

Ms Waters shared notes handwritten by her sister before she died, one of which read: “I wake from restless sleep absolutely panic stricken. 40 days are taking their toll on my skin and my nails, my stomach is wasting away.”

Concluding her inquest in Reading on Thursday, senior coroner Heidi Connor said: “The evidence is clear in this respect, and I find that Ruth’s mental health deterioration and death was likely contributed to by the Ofsted inspection.”

The inquiry heard Ofsted’s Alan Derry, who led the inspection at the school on November 15 and 16 last year, said Mrs Perry was “tearful” and kept saying: “It’s not looking good is it?”

Mrs Perry’s husband Jonathan Perry told the inquest his wife felt the Ofsted inspector was a “bully” with an “agenda”.

He said she was concerned that failing on child safeguarding would be the end of her career.

Julia Waters, sister of Ruth Perry, speaking to members of the media (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Julia Waters, sister of Ruth Perry, speaking to members of the media (Andrew Matthews/PA)

An inspection report, published on Ofsted’s website in March, found Mrs Perry’s school to be “good” in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be “inadequate”.

Ms Connor said: “I find that parts of the Ofsted inspection were conducted in a way which lacked fairness, respect and sensitivity.”

She added that a claim made by Ofsted during the inquest, that school inspections could be paused if the distress of a headteacher was a concern, was “a mythical creature”.

“Ofsted gave evidence under oath that they have paused inspections before for reasons of headteacher distress,” she said.

“I heard no direct evidence of this, and I am afraid I have to wonder what the level of distress must have been in those cases for such an action to be taken. It is clear that there is no guidance or training in this respect.”

The senior coroner said she was “concerned to note the almost complete absence of Ofsted training” in situations where school leaders showed distress during an inspection, and around whether inspections could be paused in such cases.

She said that she intended to issue a Regulation 28 report to prevent future deaths in this matter and that she hoped this would assist the parliamentary inquiry into Ofsted inspections.

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